Fada N’Gourma – City Stopover with a Stone Lion

The entry for Fada N’Gourma in my guidebook was a couple of paragraphs. Admittedly this was longer than the very brief two-sentence mention for Hamile in NW Ghana, but it didn’t give me much to anticipate. Despite only using it as a break-of-journey overnight stop on the long trek from Ouagadougou to northern Benin, it’s always nice to know a bit about a town before you get there. Like, you know, if there’s anywhere to eat, or sleep.

As it turns out, there really isn’t much to anticipate. Fada’s nothing more than a small town built around a roundabout, where the main routes to Mali and Benin break off from each other. It’s very much a trading town, with a large empty town square, a lively open-air market between the two roads, and, er …

Stone Lion
This stone lion sits in the centre of the huge roundabout at the centre of Fada. I have absolutely no idea why!

War Memorial
The War Memorial, dedicated to the soldiers who fought between 1943-45 for the local battalion (presumably on behalf of the Free French forces as they liberated France).

The advantage of its small size means that it felt much less ‘in your face’ than much of West Africa; the people here didn’t really seem to care that there was a tall, hairy, white man bumbling aimlessly around their town – certainly they never approached me to enquire. Maybe I scared them?
What was evident though in the few conversations I attempted was that there was much less fluency in French. It was more difficult to communicate, partly because of this language barrier, but also the local accent was much harder for my ears to understand and pick up on.

It was quite a long and characteristically bumpy minibus ride from Ouagadougou, taking around 6 hours – including a brief stop of around 20 minutes a short way outside Fada when we broke down. The bus I was on was actually a regular service to Mali, so I was one of the few people to disembark in Fada – there was no bus station and everything (from buses to coaches to lorries) dropped off & picked up from random places in front of the market entrance. No-one seemed to know where from or when minibuses to the Benin frontier would go, so on leaving it would just be a case of standing around on the right side of the road and hope I wouldn’t be there too long.

Finding a hotel wasn’t a problem; we’d passed a couple on the way in so I wandered back to one of those (the Auberge Diana). On going in it felt more like a gentleman’s club – there were quite a few men in the main lobby watching football on the TV, but I very much got the impression they were either ‘residents’, or friends of the owner; I only know about one other guest for certain as I heard him in the room next to mine. My room was ‘out the back’, along a narrow walkway, thus quite secluded and hidden from the sun by both trees and the wall on the other side of the path. In a major surprise, the hotel had wi-fi.

Outside of the Hotel in Fada
The outside of my chosen hotel in Fada.

Inside of the Hotel in Fada
Inside my room, compared to many on my trip thus far it was very light & airy, for such a small room.

Overall I quite liked Burkina Faso; although I was essentially only using it as a ‘by-pass’ to get to the right bit of Benin and prevent the need for backtracking, it struck me as one of those ‘hidden gems’ of countries that if I had more time, I’d want to explore a few more of the nooks and crannies – the far West near Bobo and the far North towards Mali are both supposed to be very scenic areas, and where the cultures of the South merge with those of the desert to create a unique atmosphere of people.

I am sure I will be back. But not in Summer when the temperature hits 40°C …

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Visited 4-5 December 2014

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